MANILA, Philippines – "Kaya Natin Movement" co-founder Grace Padaca believes incoming DILG Secretary Mar Roxas should prioritize investigations into the supposedly anomalous firearms deal involving DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno.
"The matter is crying for an explanation at the very least and an investigation," Padaca said on ANC's "Dateline Philippines" on Saturday.
"If Usec. Puno was open to interviews, it would've been clear. We expect him (Roxas) to continue the transparency and accountability priorities of Secretary Jesse in the DILG."
Padaca said such probe should be forthcoming in the wake of reforms the late Secretary Jesse Robredo started in the bidding processes at the agency.
"I don't think it will be a question if we ask for that because for all the things that Sec. Jesse stood for and for the sake of the country.
"Before Secretary Jesse was interred, I was able to talk to a police officer who is in the know. He was talking about reforms in bidding processes in the DILG. He mentioned the price of a firearm was P27,000 and Secretary Jesse reduced it to P16,500 and we’re talking about 57 units."
Padaca admits while these were among the frustrations Robredo may have brought up to Kaya Natin members before he figured in the Piper Seneca plane crash off the waters off Masbate on August 18, their discussions never got to the point of any possible probe.
Meantime, Padaca admitted she had learned of reported attempts by some to enter Robredo's office and condominium the day after the plane crash.
However, they were too engrossed with search operations for the DILG Secretary.
"Nalaman ko na yan the day after the plane crash, na may gusto pumasok sa opisina at condo niya. May mga tao sa DILG na medyo concerned bakit parang nagmamadali silang pasukin yung opisina... Bakit concerned yung kausap ko? Anong gagawin kung galing sa presidente ok na ito pero bakit may concern?
Back then, Padaca said she had learned that Puno was on the way out. She now says, it is up to the Aquino government to assess whether or not to suspend or replace Puno.
"Will he (Roxas) be able to work with him (Puno) well or is it up to his powers to replace him?"
"But I heard he (Puno) was on the way out even before Secretary Robredo died."
Padaca said they believe Roxas will do his best to continue the reforms Robredo started in the DILG. She also brushed off fears Roxas may use the agency to further his political ambitions in 2016.
"The new DILG Secretary should have the full trust of the President. I think Secretary Mar is it and we'll just have to see how things will go."
"If he does something wrong we call his attention to it... The important thing is - is he following the "Daang Matuwid" path that the President wants…”
Meantime, Padaca recalled that before Robredo died, the DILG chief had also referred to another probe into the purchase of firetrucks during a speech he gave at one "Galing Pook" event.
"He was looking into the purchase of firetrucks and he took it upon himself to check the price of firetrucks beyond what was submitted to him and he said firetruck pala na may kasamang bahay."
Amid fears or a resurgence of jueteng ahead of the 2013 elections, Padaca now appeals to government to look into the roots of jueteng operations in Pampanga, Cagayan and Isabela, and alleged police links to the illegal numbers game.
"We pose that challenge and appeal to every Cabinet Secretary to stop jueteng."
"In the beginning when it was not a priority of the new administration, you couldn't just come in after the Arroyo administration and antagonize the generals... but after two years, I think it needs looking into again especially since its 2013 (an election year again). Jueteng money puts into power crooks."
Padaca noted when PNP Chief Nicanor Bartolome assumed office, he invited her, former Pampanga Gov. Father Ed Panlilio and "Kaya Natin" co-convernor Harvey Keh to a meeting, following calls for a stop to jueteng.
"We were not really satisfied with the dialogue but after some months Sec. Jesse continued to do things against jueteng... in Camarines Sur where some officers were removed."
"We're not just going after gambling lords... before I talked about the police protecting gambling lords. Pero umabot sa punto na... ang nagtakeover PNP officials na operators na may front."
In her first year as Isabela Governor, Padaca bared during a congressional probe that mayors and cops were on the take from jueteng.